How to celebrate the New Year in Saint Petersburg? Why Russians celebrate the New Year and not Christmas? Going forward, I have to mention that if you celebrate the New Year in Russia, you will never forget this experience. So let’s discover what’s so special in this winter holiday in Russia!
First of all, the New Year is the most widely celebrated holiday in Russia. Many consider this holiday even more exciting than a birthday. Why? Probably, because EVERYONE is celebrating, and this common festive mood is shared throughout the country.
Preparations for New Year in Saint Petersburg begin early in December. The light day is already short. However, city streets glow in the dark due to endless kilometres of light strings. Usually, the central part of Saint Petersburg is richly embellished. Highlighted bridges, embankments, buildings, squares look unreal! I always feel like I’m wandering in the huge theatre decoration.
Just to make it clear: New Year Eve is a night between the 31 of December and the 1st of January.
Catholic Christmas on the 25th of December is not celebrated in Russia. Russians celebrate Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.
Myth about celebrating New Year in Russia:
Russia lays in many time zones, thus New Year comes 8 hours earlier in Vladivostok than in Kaliningrad. I’ve heard that some hotels propose to drink a shot every time its midnight in some of the Russian regions. We don’t do that.
What Is The Weather Like In Saint Petersburg?
Saint Petersburg is known for its capricious changeable weather. And winter weather is not an exception.
It can be humid, with +1 – +5°С.
It can be frosty with –10°С.
It is very important to dress correctly. Clothes should be warm, windproof and waterproof. “Windproof” is very important so I’d probably advise to leave alone pretty wool coats and opt for a dawn coat (with a hood).
What To Begin With?
Explore New Year markets
Even if you’re not a fan of shopping, I recommend visiting New Year markets in Saint Petersburg. They offer a variety of locally made food, hot tea from a samovar and handmade gifts.
Due to weather conditions, markets often take place inside exhibitions halls or former aristocracy mansions.
Besides, there are open-air markets. For instance, head to Manezhnaya Square in the historical centre of Saint Petersburg. This market looks like a “classical” European Christmas market. People walk among stalls full of New Year decorations, local souvenirs and — the most attractive part, as for me — delicious food and drinks!
Don’t Miss A Visit To Theatre
In general, I recommend visiting one of Saint Petersburg’s theatres not depending on when you come: in summer or winter.
However, if you come in December, watch the most Christmassy ballet of all times — the famous Nutcracker. This beautiful fairy tale will certainly put you in a dreamy mood when we all believe that miracles happen.
Book theatre tickets in advance! New Year season is a “high” tourist season in Saint Petersburg. This means that better think in advance of plane/train tickets, hotels, theatres. etc.
Now let’s see what to do on New Year’s Eve.
Did I mention that New Year’s Eve is the biggest night of the Year? It is, believe me!
On New Year’s Eve the main Saint Petersburg’s street — Nevsky Prospect — turns into a pedestrian street. Thousands of locals and guests of the Northern capital come there for the biggest outdoor party.
1. Celebrate New Year On Palace Square
Palace Square is the main square of Saint Petersburg. Want to begin the New Year in one of the most beautiful places in Europe? Then Palace Square is what you need!
The main New Year tree is set up on the Palace Square. Its lavish decoration and illumination, as well as glowing in the dark Winter Palace, make a perfect background for festive pictures. There also will be a scene for a holiday concert which begins at 11 p.m. It’s a kind of appetizer before the real fun begins. Don’t be shy and dance — moving will warm you up!
At midnight the Kremlin Clock chimes announce that the New Year has just come. Probably, this is the most silent moment of the year because everyone counts the 12 strokes and makes wishes… Time to cry out loudly: “S Novym Godom!” and to give hugs to everyone who you think is deserving a hug.
Though the Palace Square is rather crowded on the NY night, you can still move freely (it’s not at all like standing in the crowd in a rock-star gig). The entrance is free.
— You can not bring alcohol with you. Drinking alcohol in public spaces (on the streets, in parks) is prohibited in Russia.
— On the entry to the square visitors are obliged to pass through a metal detector and security check.
— Don’t be afraid of popular merrymaking. Just take your usual precautions and you’ll be fine.
Then you can either stay on the Palace Square or stroll down Nevsky Prospect and visit the Sennaya Square where guests are welcomed to taste pirozhki, pancakes, bagels and hot tea.
By 3 a.m. come back to the Palace Embankment to watch the spectacular fireworks.
Public transport is functioning the whole night long (however, rely mostly on the metro).
2. Celebrate New Year In A Restaurant
If you don’t feel like you’re ready to spend a winter night outside, think of booking a table in a restaurant.
Every restaurant, hotel or bar proposes a New Year festive program. Usually, it includes a festive meal and a show program.
It’s up to you what to choose: something cosier and more relaxing or crazy dancing with Snegurochka and flowing champagne. Prices differ very much — depending on the location, cuisine and festive program. Expect at least 150 USD per adult.
Book a table in advance! “In advance” mean that you can do this starting from October. Chances to find a place in a restaurant during the New Year’s Eve are extremely low.
Just to give an idea, here are some nice places:
“The Phantom of the Opera” at the Konstantinovsky Palace. This Palace is considered to be one of the most prestigious places for events of any level. Russian President Vladimir Putin often holds official meetings there.
Admission ticket: 400+ USD
Moulin Rouge style party at La Vue Restaurant. Beautiful dancers, plumages, rhinestones, sequins, flashy decor and immortal symbol of any cabaret — can-can.
Admission ticket: 400+ USD
Travel through time at Tzar Restaurant. Welcome to the times of Peter the Great, the founder of Saint Petersburg: classic ballroom dances, Russian romances and arias, gorgeous New Year Tree and gifts.
Admission ticket: 400+ USD
Carnival night at Plyushkin restaurant: live music, show-ballet, a candy bar for kids, champagne bar for adults.
Admission ticket: 100+ USD
3. Spend New Year’s Eve In A Theatre
Spend the New Year’s Eve with famous clown show of the Litsedei Theatre. The theatre itself turns into a cabaret-hall. The actors prepare a unique show including pantomimes, clowning, games and jokes. Guests can also participate in fun contests, go to karaoke, dancing with clowns and laugh as much as they can!
Admission ticket: 200+ USD
4. Go On A Cruise Tour
Cruise companies also have special New Year’s offers, like a 5-days round trip from Saint Petersburg on Princess Anastasia cruise liner. You’ll visit other wonderful European cities such as Riga, Tallinn, Stockholm, Helsinki and, of course, and have festive treats and show during New Year’s Eve.
Admission ticket: 600+ USD (per cruise)
5. Party With Your Russian Friends
If you have Russian friends, ask them to invite you (at least once in a lifetime) to spend New Year Eve with a Russian family. This is the best way not only to get acquainted with local traditions but also taste 100% authentic local dishes (many of them are “special” New Year dishes).
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I hope this guide to how to celebrate the New Year in Saint Petersburg will help you to decide what to do if you spend winter holidays in Russia. Whatever you choose, be sure to have fun, lots of champagne and gifts!
Best wishes from Russia,